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Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Playing the Victim Card

Amity Shlaes
Before we get started here, let me take a moment to explain who Amity Shlaes is. According to the blurb at the end of her column, "Amity Shlaes, author of The Forgotten Man: A New History of the Great Depression is a Bloomberg News columnist." Forgotten Man is the Republican party's new favorite book, since it argues that Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal actually made the depression worse, not better. In a nutshell, it wasn't the massive government spending on social programs and projects like the Golden Gate Bridge that set the economy right, it was the massive government spending on WWII that got us back on track. Self-contradictory, sure, but it gets even worse. Let me explain why this is exactly as ridiculous and absurd as it sounds. It'll only take a paragraph.

Imagine a proposal to fix the economy by refighting WWII. Not in a real sense, but by acting like we are. First, we retool nearly all manufacturing in America to build military weapons -- tanks, planes, rifles, munitions, parachutes, military uniforms, ships, etc. Then we take all of this stuff and we ship it over to Europe and the South Pacific, where we just blow most of it up. At home, we strangle commerce at the retail level by rationing everything. Fabrics, food, tires, gas, pots and pans, radios -- everything. Industrialists are doing OK, but no one else is getting a whole lot of business. Few people are taking out loans, because you really can't buy anything, and even savings accounts don't grow, because Americans are buying War Bonds instead of putting money into banks.

When you put it that way it, it looks really stupid, doesn't it? Which explains why Republicans are arguing that only tax cuts can save us. What they say worked to end the Great Depression would be disastrous in our recession -- and they know it.

But that's not the problem that Shlaes is writing about in her latest column. After writing a book putting across a crazy argument, Shlaes complains that mean liberal bloggers are calling Republicans liars and nutjobs.

So Michele Bachmann's version of history is "from another planet." Bobby Jindal, the Republican governor of Louisiana, is "chronically stupid." And Eric Cantor of Virginia, the second-ranking Republican in the House, is "busy lying constantly."

That at least is according to posts on three left-leaning blogs.

Writers who are not pro-Barack Obama are suffering character assassination as well. George Will of the Washington Post, the nation's senior conservative columnist, has been so assaulted by bloggers that his editor, Fred Hiatt, recently wrote, "I would think folks would be eager to engage in the debate, given how sure they are of their case, rather than trying to shut him down."

The disconcerting thing isn’t that the bloggers or their guests did this slamming. We're used to such vitriol in campaign time. What is surprising is that the attacks are continuing after an election.

When you begin a column by rushing to the defense of Michele Bachmann's grasp of history, it's really hard to recover. Follow those links and you'll see that the only post that's even remotely unfair is the one calling Jindal "chronically stupid" -- and that's a republishing of a Talking Points Memo post under a completely different headline. The new headline calls him "chronically stupid," the body of the post is just a straightforward debunking of a lie. As far as Eric Cantor goes, he is constantly lying. As was George Will when WaPo got all the nasty mail.

And where has Shlaes been for the past eight years? Hands up, how many lefties out there have been told you were rooting for Saddam Hussein or had your patriotism attacked? Right wing rhetoric has been hateful for a long, long time. It was Sean Hannity who asked attorney Stanley Cohen, "Is it that you hate this president or that you hate America?" Tune into Rush Limbaugh or Bill O'Reilly or Michael Savage and tell me with a straight face that these people are respectful. If you've got a problem with the level of discourse in American politics, you're a little late in complaining about it, Amity. The time to do that was some time toward the beginning of the Clinton administration. As it is, that boat sailed a long, long time ago -- with Republicans at the helm.

"Because the ruling Democrats have tilted too far left, their allies are out on a mission of distraction, trying to prove that everyone else is too far to the right," Shlaes writes. It's not the best argument -- extremists tend to think they're mainstream. They aren't going to compensate. And "too far left" by whose measure? Certainly not the electorate's. As it is, only 1 in 5 identify themselves as Republican and Barack Obama still enjoys high approval ratings.

The truth is that the distraction is Shlaes'. Republicans are sinking like a stone and someone has to be blamed for it. Since Republicans show no willingness to change and, in fact, seem to believe that their ideas are brilliant, it has to be the fault of liberals. So bloggers are being mean and making Republicans look bad.

Amity Shlaes isn't the first to make this argument. She won't be the last. Republicans eager to blame liberals for what's basically their own damned fault aren't going to enjoy a lot of success with that message.


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M said...

"George Will of the Washington Post, the nation's senior conservative columnist"

That's a laugh. "The nation's senior conservative columnist?"

You know, wearing a bow-tie does not determine intelligence.

George Will is as dishonest as they come. Every other week it seems like he's lying or misrepresenting science related to climate change.

If "the nation's senior conservative columnist" is a well- documented liar, how is calling him out for his lies and misrepresentations "trying to shut him down?"

Shouldn't liars be shut down? Why the fuck does Bill Kristol still have a job?!

Off-topic-- Here's something I've been thinking a lot about lately:

Where would the Democratic Party be without Barack Obama and where would Republicans be?

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